What pandemic? Downtown Birmingham and Southside make huge comeback!

Robert Crook
Robert Crook

Today’s guest columnist is Robert Crook.

I’ve never been busier in my life!

In fact, I’ve missed several deadlines to write this ComebackTown column because business is so strong.

I’m founder and owner of a commercial real estate company specializing in commercial properties primarily in Birmingham’s urban core.

A few months ago when the pandemic first hit and there were protests all over our country, I was pessimistic about the future of commercial real estate.

Retail, hospitality, and restaurants were closed. Employees were working from home—and there was fear that a large percentage of the workforce would not return to their offices.

There was also a fear that some people might abandon cities for the suburbs.

A lot of those fears may still exist, but you cannot tell it from what is going on in Birmingham.

The last 30 days have been crazy busy for real estate companies in Birmingham—particularly in downtown and southside:

  • (Downtown) Jones Valley Teaching Farm announced a $7.58 million multiuse facility that will help nurture Birmingham City School students and future culinary entrepreneurs/leaders.
  • (Downtown) The Ideal Lofts (an apartment development) sold for $4.5 million. This is an important transaction because this was a difficult building due to a lack of parking and the need for substantial renovation. It puts a stamp of approval on the downtown area.
  • (Downtown) In the Civil Rights District, the historic Masonic Temple is getting geared up for a major renovation. It will serve as a business incubator and an office building. Both national and local real estate firms will be partnering on this important project
  • (Southside) Orchestra Partners announced that they are developing a block of properties to the West of Railroad Park called Urban Supply into a hub for fitness concepts, along with restaurant, bar, and other retail uses.
  • (Southside) “The Tracks,” a building with 273 apartment units, has been announced at 2400 1st Avenue South.
  • The Dobbins Group announced a $16.5 million, 96-unit multifamily deal in Avondale.
  • (Southside) Aptitude Development of New Jersey is building a 200,000 SF student housing development on 3rdAvenue South near UAB.
  • (Downtown) Greenrock, a fast-growing start-up, recently purchased the Blair Furniture building on 2ndAvenue north adjacent to El Barrio. They plan to renovate this 24,500 SF building into their local headquarters.
  • EGS announced that they are constructing a build to suit for a 67,000 SF industrial tenant at 39thStreet North and 1st Avenue North.
  • Signature homes announced an 832 acres mixed-use project in Hoover. The project will consist of 2,800 single-family homes and 600,000 SF of commercial space off John Hawkins Parkway.
  • (Downtown) Ed Tichelli has purchased and plans to redevelop the old American Red Cross Building on 3rdAvenue North into workforce housing. This 120,000 SF building has been vacant for over 20 years.
  • As reported by the BBJ, “Project Repeat,” a 100-acres site in Bessemer along Morgan Road, could come to fruition soon. This is a 1.2 million SF industrial project.

Why are we seeing such momentum in Birmingham in such a difficult time for our country’s economy?

Interest rates are at an all-time low and the federal government has injected trillions of dollars into our economy.

On the other hand, every city in our country has had this benefit; so, what is unique to us?

I see people helping people. I have seen landlords help tenants out with rent payments and I have seen banks help landlords out with debt payments. I have seen property owners tell their retail neighbors to use their sidewalk so that they can set up more tables while following socially distancing. I have seen property owners allow churches to congregate in their open-air parking decks. We are not fighting with one another, and this cannot be understated.

I also believe that some credit goes to our elected officials. Locally, we have seen our leaders encourage peaceful protests. When things briefly turned destructive, they quickly put an end to such behavior. As seen around the country, this has not been so easy to achieve.

Birmingham was growing and being transformed even prior to the pandemic. We now see that this growth was not a fad. This is a tangible turning point for our region.

I believe that this opinion will be based in fact once the 2020 U.S. census comes out. I think our region will see the highest growth in at least 80 years. Specifically, I believe the 2020 census will show population and job growth.

Birmingham has become an attractive city to live, visit and do business.

I am amazed by the young people who are moving into our city. I believe that they see opportunity, affordability, and community .

Birmingham’s Magic is back!

Robert Crook, CCIM, is owner and founder of Ironvest Partners. A graduate of Auburn University, Robert was born and raised in Birmingham and is a fourth-generation commercial real estate broker. Robert was awarded “Rookie of the Year” by the Birmingham Commercial Real Estate Council in 2013 and has received the million-dollar sales club distinction each year thereafter. He, along with his wife Anna and son Louis, attend Redeemer Community Church in Avondale.

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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3 thoughts on “What pandemic? Downtown Birmingham and Southside make huge comeback!”

  1. As a building where I used to work, I would love to see some ambitious developer do something with the old Birmingham Chamber of Commerce building. While upgrading would be expensive, the interior of brass, marble, and terrazzo stone would make wonderful lofts and executive living suites. Just sayin’…

  2. The MAGIC left Bham in the 70’s and we all know that MAGIC is slight of hand.
    1. Hoover is not Bham. no revenue for Bham
    2. Bessemer is not Bham. no revenue for Bham

    With a 65 Million Dollar budget shortfall for the City of Bham, the City needs more than a couple of ghetto buildings renovated ( possibly ) and flipping an apartment building does not generate revenue for the City.

    If not for UAB, Bham would be a ghost town…With no MAGIC

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